MGU 43 | Dopamine Fasting

 

However useful and informative, the digital world also poses a number of threats to our wellbeing. When handled excessively, it can become a source of unhealthy habits and addiction. If you are in dire need of a digital detoxing, then this episode is for you. Hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen dig deep into this subject to help us have a more mindful and healthy relationship with digital technology. In particular, they explore the concept of ‘dopamine fasting’—the avoidance of pleasant things that are dopamine inducing, such as what is online and even rich food. Ironic it may seem, ridding yourself of these pleasant things every now and then benefits your entire wellbeing in the long run. Rather than looking for that quick escape, you begin to confront and expose yourself to uncomfortable feelings, break addicting habits, and live life mindfully and with more awareness. Allow Jason and Whitney to tell you more about the effects of our increasingly unhealthy relationship with technology and the ways we can overcome them.

Listen to the podcast here:

Dopamine Fasting: Cultivating A More Mindful And Healthy Relationship With Technology

We are going to talk about something called dopamine fasting.

This is something I wanted to talk about. This is great.

Is it possible that you sent me an article? 

I did.

I had an article saved that I’ve finally read to learn more about what we’re talking about here. I took some notes on what I read and thought that it would be a fantastic subject matter.

This is apropos and I’m glad you’re bringing this back around because one thing that Whitney and I do a lot is share articles back and forth about technology, music and TikTok videos. Also, we want to share articles about mental health, emotional wellness, sustainability, and food. We’re always sending info back and more. You and I have been focusing much not just in our conversation with Adam Yasmin, our episode with him. The idea of digital detoxing and having a more mindful and healthy relationship with digital technology. Dopamine fasting is something that is part and parcel of how we use or in this case, not use technology or more mindful use. As you dug into this article, Whitney, what popped out at you? What were the top-level things that you wanted to discuss?

In true Whitney fashion, I am going to read you some of my notes and take it line-by-line.

One thing I admire about Whitney, not only our business partnership and co-hosting but life, in general, is that her level of organization and research is some of the most poignant and stellar that I’ve ever seen in any capacity. You’re good at organizing information, distilling it and researching it. It’s been months since I’ve seen this article and since we’re resurrecting it, I want to dive deep with you.

People are afraid to feel sad and deal with uncomfortable emotions. Click To Tweet

I also pulled from multiple articles because I wrote these notes out a little while ago, but I compiled a lot of different thoughts and information to create this.

The reason I got excited to send this to you is the more that I started to realize my personal addiction to smartphones and how often I was using it to distract myself or stimulate myself. That’s what got me interested in this subject simply because I’ve struggled so much with brain chemistry issues, depression, dopamine, serotonin, and all the neurotransmitters. This is a potent subject in terms of addiction and the responsible use of technology. Let’s dive in.

Number one, some people are going out of their way to avoid the many pleasant things life has to offer, which sounds counterintuitive as we should be going out of our way to avoid the unpleasant things life has to offer. Dopamine fasting is about avoiding pleasant things such as online movies and rich food. It’s not as financially rich. 

I’ve turned down that wagyu beef and the $25 Impossible Burger.

It’s about flavor richness, friendly conversations and eye contact. I can find eye contact unpleasant sometimes, it makes me uncomfortable.

They’re suggesting that all of these things are releasing dopamine in your brain. They’re manipulating your dopamine levels.

I wouldn’t say they’re manipulating necessarily especially things like eye contact. It’s a basic human form of communication. Our bodies function for a reason, although there are things watching movies that release a lot of dopamine or platforms like TikTok, which I think a lot about. Every time I open up TikTok, I think, “Why am I using this app?” I find myself when I am craving dopamine, pleasure, distraction or any of those emotions, I will often want to open up TikTok because that is a pleasant experience. It’s an application that’s designed to release a lot of dopamine. Most of the social media is but TikTok is more than anything else I’ve experienced, which is scary at times. I’m aware of that and I keep thinking how this is affecting people that are not aware of how it’s affecting them and why they’re using it so much are.

In this day and age that we’re going into with technology and the amount of pleasure we have access to, we can list off all sorts of things like watching pornography, which is an obvious thing that you might restrict if you’re doing dopamine fasting. To go on it a little bit deeper to provide more context on this, the idea behind dopamine fasting is that we might be getting too much of a good thing in an attention economy. Some people believe that we need to carve out time without stimulation from the things that become addictive. This includes our smartphones, our televisions and the internet, playing games, going shopping and gambling. Those addictive activities can be minimized or even suppressed for a little while so that we can regain control over how we spend our time. This will increase behavioral flexibility by reducing impulsive behavior for extended periods of time.

MGU 43 | Dopamine Fasting

Dopamine Fasting: Dopamine fasting is something that is part and parcel of how we use or in this case, not use, technology.

 

This is fascinating to me because if I think about some of the things that I would be in this category like watching sports highlights or car racing is this thing that I’ve noticed that I do mindlessly to get excited. It’s almost like I’m seeking out external stimulation through watching not just content but specific types of content. I remember when you said rich foods, the first thing I said was chocolate. I already know that chemically chocolate is affecting me simply because of the high levels of a phenethylamine. It’s the love molecule, they’ve shown that when you’re in love, your brain is releasing certain things and its neurochemistry. Eating chocolate helps to mimic a lot of those neurochemicals. I still have this thing for chocolate where I know that I’m still doing what I’m aware of doing, which is when I get lonely or when I get sad, I will go to chocolate to try to overstimulate myself. It’s interesting you bring this up because there are immediate things that come to my mind of awareness around specific things I’m doing. I know that when I’m feeling down, bored or lonely, I tend to gravitate toward those things.

The thing is it’s a slippery slope because as I’m doing those things, watching those specific types of content, which are immediate or the immediate gratification of eating chocolate or sometimes I’ve used sex to do that in relationships. If I’m sad, bored or I don’t feel good about myself, I’m going to use sex or some form of sex to gratify myself in that way. To reflect on those things, it begs the question of why we are afraid. I say we, as a collective humanity, to back away from those things and not use them as crutches so much. What is the fear behind that? I certainly have had a resistance to letting go of some of those things sometimes even though the awareness exists, why do I continue to do this? Sometimes I end up feeling worse after indulging in those things. Acknowledging that I feel lonely, bored, sad and something so I reach for chocolate, basketball highlights, or some sexual stimulation, then I will feel better temporarily but afterward there’s almost a neurochemistry hangover. I can feel that that didn’t work. The thing is with some people, that’s frightening because they’re like, “I must need more of it or something different.”

Maybe something’s wrong with me or I need to go on medication. 

I think we’ve touched on this in previous episodes. People are afraid to feel sad, uncomfortable and deal with uncomfortable emotions. It’s easier sometimes to mask loneliness, sadness, and isolation by consuming something. Everything we’re talking about shopping, alcohol, drugs, sex or chocolate, we’re talking about consumption. All of that is consuming whether it’s consuming content, food, alcohol or drugs. It goes into some of the stuff we heard Russell Brand talk about at the event in Wanderlust Hollywood and he was talking about the nature of addiction. Some of this resonates with a lot of the twelve-step methodologies he was outlaying. It creates this vicious cycle of addiction when the things that we try and do to change our chemistry and change our state of being don’t work anymore. It’s hard to break that cycle.

Part of the idea behind dopamine fasting is the belief that by avoiding stimuli like smartphone notifications, which I’ve become increasingly aware of. I think a lot about this in the mornings when I wake up and I feel that urge to check my phone and then I pause every time I have that thought. After that tech event that we were part of with Adam Yasmin, we had this opportunity to reflect on our own smartphone usage. Here we are as well-being coaches and yet, we still have a lot of work to do and awareness of our own to work on. Most people do. I started to think about using my phone as an alarm. I found myself resistant to using a regular alarm even though there’s one in my bedroom I could use. The convenience of having my phone as the alarm, I’m like, “I don’t want to change that.” I like all the settings and the options for my iPhone to be my alarm to wake up. As was mentioned by Tommy Sobel, who runs this incredible company called Brick. He talked about having your phone as an alarm is challenging because you wake up and the first thing you do is touch your phone. You turn off your alarm and then it makes it easy to start using your phone. My phone goes on Airplane Mode when I go to bed, but sometimes it’s right before I fall asleep. I’m using my phone up until I fall asleep.

I’ve tried an hour or so before I go to sleep. A lot of times, I’ll admit that I don’t do that. On a good night, I’ll read before I fall asleep but that’s usually only for 20 or 30 minutes. A lot of people are recommending that you stop using your phone and technology at least an hour before bed. I’ve gone through phases where I’m good about using my Blue Blocker glasses, but I haven’t been using them. I haven’t felt like it. I read an article about how Blue Blockers might not be doing as much as we thought. I’m like, “I don’t know about this.” It’s confusing. To go back to waking up, when my alarm goes off, I’ll have this moment of pause where it’s so tempting to turn my phone on. I’ve been asking myself, “Why do I want to turn my phone on? What am I looking for?” It’s interesting if you start to think about why. I’ll do this also before I turn on TikTok, which is another addiction of mine or eat certain foods. To have that consciousness, that pause and think about what am I looking to get here? If I’m going to eat something, am I hungry? Am I looking for a flavor? Am I looking for an escape? 

Conscious self-inquiry is what you’re talking about.

To come back to some of the article notes, it’s believed that by avoiding stimuli like smartphone notifications. What I’m talking about here is when we turn on our phones in the morning, most of us have a ton of notifications because we’ve been sleeping. Especially if we’re connected to people from around the world in different time zones, it’s possible that there are people that have been awake longer than us.

Sometimes, it's easier to mask loneliness, sadness, and isolation by consuming something. Click To Tweet

This whole thing brings up an emotional response for me. As soon as the phone turns on in the morning, I dread that because it’s everyone else’s to-do as for me.

Here’s the thing, with you having that awareness I would think that it must be easy for you not to turn your phone on. On an iPhone or most devices, you can choose which notifications you receive in your settings. You could turn off all notifications and when you turn your phone on in the morning, you will not see anything unless you go into a specific app. That might be a little bit more of an ideal. 

To briefly interject with, I’ve been consistent with waiting until after my morning meditation is over to turn the phone on. Not every single morning, but if I had to say a good 95% of the time I’m waiting until after meditation so that when the barrage of notifications, tax emails come in, I feel I’m in a better state of being to deal with it. Contrasting that with when I used to open the phone immediately after waking, I would feel instantly overwhelmed, my cortisol would go up, I could feel the stress already rising. For me, I know that the meditation being a non-negotiable has helped it to be easier to deal with that. I don’t want to say I dread it as much. For some reason, if I’m on the road or traveling, there’s a sense of dread if I’m not taking care of my needs first and then I feel everyone’s picking at me like, “Can you give me this? Can you text us back? Can you email this?” It goes back to self-care. My frame on that is if I’m taking the best care of myself, I’m easier to deal with all of that other stimuli.

For you specifically, Jason, I’ve noticed that you have a lot of your notifications turned on. You do it not only do you have the general notifications turned on for Instagram. For example in your iPhone settings, you can choose whether or not Instagram is turned on notification-wise, but then within each individual apps such as Instagram, you can go in and set your notifications. There are two levels of notification. There’s the general iPhone or whatever platform you’re using settings and then there are the app settings. The same thing goes with TikTok, they have different types of notifications and you can choose whether or not those are on. I recommend turning off whether you’re getting likes. If you’re somebody like Jason who’s posting photos and has a lot of followers, you’re going to get notified constantly with every like. Why do you need to know every time somebody likes a photo? 

Personally, I don’t have those notifications.

They comment or they leave a message, all of that stuff. For me, I have a setting so that it has a little number that shows up on the app. The only time I know if I have a message is if I see that number pop-up on the app. It doesn’t come on my screen as a text message would. I could see how overwhelming it would be if I had all those notifications turned on for all of these different platforms like Instagram, TikTok and whatever else I’m doing. Since I have most of my notifications turned off, I only have text. I have VIP settings on my email so I only get notifications for the most important people. 

Am I one of those VIPs?

You don’t email me that much. 

MGU 43 | Dopamine Fasting

Dopamine Fasting: Part of dopamine fasting is practicing exposing ourselves to anxious, bored, or lonely feelings without resorting to our usual escape methods.

 

I don’t. We mostly text.

I check my email a lot. Going back to the dopamine fasting article. They say by avoiding those stimuli, we’re also exposing ourselves to uncomfortable feelings. It could be a fear of missing out like I have these notifications off. I’m not going to know when somebody emails me or they texted me. What if it’s urgent? We live in this time where there’s so much urgency. It’s like a false urgency. Why do we need to respond to people quickly? In most cases, we don’t. When we’re exposing ourselves with these uncomfortable feelings, without giving in to the temptation to distract ourselves, we can break our habit of grabbing our devices anytime they ding or we feel bad. Ever since I’ve been paying attention to this, its nuts when I watch people around me. I was at a friend’s house. I’m sitting next to her and we were with a group of people watching a TV show. We gathered together to watch the show as a communal social thing. I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye, you would hear the buzzing of her phone giving a notification. She’d pick it up immediately to see what the notification was. She checks and then she put it down and start watching the show again. Because of the way her notifications were set on her phone, her phone was buzzing every minute. We’re watching this two-hour show, her phone is buzzing at least 120 the time that I’m there. 

No exaggeration?

I wasn’t counting but I’m assuming because of the frequency that it was happening. That’s nuts. We have built these habits through technology and things like iPhone and these other smart devices that have been around for years. We’ve created a habit culturally. This is not a generalization, but many people, anybody that has a smart device. Unless they’re disciplined and they have their notifications turned off. Some practice putting their phone in another room or turning on to do-not-disturb or airplane mode. If we didn’t do that during our show, Jason and I would be incredibly distracted this entire time. We are in this habit of grabbing our devices anytime they’re dinging with a notification, they’re buzzing, they’re making sounds and they’re flashing. We also have the habit of grabbing our devices whenever we feel any negative emotion. Boredom is the big thing. It’s not only fascinating for me to examine myself in these times but it’s become incredibly uncomfortable that I’m aware because I notice how many people around me are picking up their devices. It’s so uncomfortable at times because I’m thinking in my head, right or wrong but my judgment is this person is bored. If there’s a pause in the conversation, they grab their phone. Jason, you do it too.

I see you do it and I see myself doing it. You’re at a red light. In general, including myself, “I’m at a stoplight. I’ll be here for at least ten seconds. That gives me plenty of time to pick up my phone and check and see if I got an important text, email, or notification.” If you break it down, you start to realize it’s simply because we started to associate boredom. We can immediately say, “I have some free time. This is a good time to check my device and get a dopamine hit.” We’ve trained ourselves to do that like if we go into the bathroom. If you’re at a restaurant, notice that most people will pick up their phone and walk to the bathroom with their phone. It’s like, “I get a break from the conversation while I’m using the bathroom. This is the perfect time for me to check my device.” If you go to an event and nobody’s talking to you, this a perfect time to check my device. We get into this.

Part of dopamine fasting is that we should practice exposing ourselves to anxious, bored or lonely feelings without resorting to our usual escape methods like checking our phones. We’re trying to escape, self soothe or we’ve justified it in our head somehow that, “I don’t want to waste any time.” That’s another thing. We’re in this busy culture where busyness is rampant. People feel that if they have a minute of downtime, that’s the perfect time for them to multitask and to check their devices. Dopamine fasting is not about devices. As we said at the beginning, it’s about rich food. I’ve noticed this about myself too that when I crave in certain foods. Stepping back and saying like, “Why am I craving this? Do I need to have that chocolate, that sugar hit?” Even the sugar-free hit, you can have sugar-free chocolate and still get the enjoyment of the chocolate.

It still stimulating you. That’s the point. You’re talking about stimulation, distraction and avoidant behavior. The interesting thing about everything you shared with is I’ve noticed for myself that long-term focus changes the more that I have these dopamine hits and consuming too much digital. As an example, I’ve started reading Joe Dispenza’s book, Becoming Supernatural. It’s phenomenal. That’s another tangent all-in itself but whether it’s reading or me sitting down to write long-form content which I’m good at both of those things. The more time that I spend on my devices and distracting myself, I find it is harder for me to focus on long-form consumption of books and content writing. I’ll be in the middle of writing a blog or book proposal, whatever it is, and I’ll catch my mind being like, “This is boring. We don’t want to do this anymore.” I’ll catch myself looking to be distracted from the thing I’m trying to focus on. I have read studies about this. It confirms that this type of content like the TikTok-style content makes it harder for our brain to do long-term focusing. That’s the danger that I’ve noticed for myself but also, have read for other people. They’re noticing it too. My concern is if you’re sitting down to have a long conversation with people or any kind of work or creative endeavor that requires our attention for long periods of time. As humanity, we’re facing that people are not good at that anymore. That’s concerning to me for a litany of reasons.

In one of these articles that I read, one of the doctors or researchers was saying that taking a break from behaviors that trigger strong amounts of dopamine release especially in a repeated fashion, meaning you’re doing them over and over again, allows our brain to recover and restore itself. Without those breaks, we become habituated to high levels of the chemical dopamine. We feel the need to seek out ever or higher doses of stimulation to achieve the same pleasurable effect. Not only is it causing all of these mental challenges for us, but it’s also making us want to more and more of it. It’s getting worse. It means it could continue to impact us in a negative way. Based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based treatment approach to help people change unhelpful ways of thinking that influence their behavior. Dopamine fasting is a form of CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. That’s often used to treat addictions. Part of the reason that people are doing the dopamine fasting is because it’s changing unhelpful ways of things.

We seek out pleasure when what we want is to feel that self-love, to understand that we are good enough and are innately worthy. Click To Tweet

I want to loop back because you reminded me of something when you were talking about the self-inquiry of asking yourself certain questions of, “Why am I doing this? Why am I reaching for the popcorn, the chocolate, the TikTok, the TV?” I remember when I was becoming aware of my sugar addiction, the emotional correlation between that.

Which was when? 

That was when I first started to become aware that I’m eating way too much sugar, it was around 2016. I remember standing in my kitchen at my old loft in Koreatown and I was reaching for ice cream. I’m becoming aware at that moment that I was lonely. That’s something that I experience a lot. That’s a persistent, uncomfortable emotion for me that I’ve learned to be more comfortable, I don’t know if that is the right word, but sit with it, be with it. I started to realize that when I reach for ice cream, brownies, or chocolate, I stopped myself at that moment. The question that came into my mind was, “What is it you need?” I stopped because I wasn’t hungry. There was no hunger present for this ice cream. At that moment, I needed to cry. I was experiencing much loneliness that I needed to process and be with. I’m putting the ice cream away and letting myself be sad and allowing it. It doesn’t mean that I excel in those moments every time but the awareness and the practice of behavioral change of when I feel lonely, not reaching for something sugary and sweet have been a massive transformational exercise for me. It’s not just the awareness of it, it’s when I know that I’m lonely and I reach for the ice cream, can I put it back in the fridge? Can I make a different decision? That takes practice especially if it’s been habituated for years.

If I take it back to my childhood where a lot of things start for many of us. Being raised by a single mom who was amazing and working of 2 or 3 jobs at a time, I spent a lot of time alone. How, I as a child from what I recall is dealt with the sugary things. I’m lonely and bored so I’m going to reach for this thing to comfort myself. If those subconscious mechanisms are at work, they carry into adulthood until we become aware of them and consciously work to modify our behavior. My personal brute experience was around sugar like, “You eat this when you are lonely. Can you be with it? Not mask it, not trying to get away from it.” It’s frightening to people but it doesn’t have to be. There’s nothing wrong with crying, being lonely, sad, and heartbroken. It’s okay if you’re in that state of being but we’re in a culture that that’s not okay. Take a pill, drug for it or mask it. We’re afraid of these uncomfortable feelings. This is the crux of one of the reasons why we started this. Let’s be okay with feeling sad, uncomfortable, confused or scared. It’s okay to feel that way. Allow yourself.

To be deliberate about your choices, meal times, social media, shopping or watching TV. As you were saying, refined sugar. So Delicious, they have the no sugar added mint chip. Have you had that? 

Yes, I have.

It’s good. The good news is that you can find some balance but it could be for the same reason. I was about to recommend that and I thought it’s not about the sugar. I’ve been doing low carb and keto off and on for a while. There’s plenty of sugar alternatives out there, but you might still be eating those foods for the same reason. Part of it is knowing that you could find some balance and it could be transitionary. When we went vegan, we’ve eaten a lot of processed foods at first simply because we were trying to train ourselves to stop eating certain ingredients, but we still weren’t quite ready to make the leap from meat to mostly actual plants versus going from meat to some of the process. Meat alternatives out there is a little bit easier at the beginning.

People can become addictive to alcohol, processed fats, nicotine, recreational drugs and caffeine even. Caffeine is a huge addiction. In these articles, I learned that dopamine is involved in the complex process of reward-based learning, memory and motivation. It’s motivating you to repeat the process. It’s flooding your system especially when you experience unanticipated things. That’s why I’m wondering that TikTok and things like that are addicting because we constantly surprised. It’s like playing the lottery, slot machine, or gambling. You know you enjoy gambling but you don’t know if you’re going to win or not. You keep doing it over and over again because if you win and it’s unanticipated, it’s the highest and it’s great. 

MGU 43 | Dopamine Fasting

Dopamine Fasting: TikTok has given us the opportunity to be seen, to feel important, and to get it faster than ever before in social media.

 

Was it Tony Robbins that talked about the power of possibility? He talks about the same feeling of did I get something in the mail like going to our physical mailbox. There could be something in there. Am I to be surprised? It’s the same brain chemical reaction that motivates checking our email. I check my email way too much. There might be a gate, project, some money coming in, or there might be something in there. It’s the power of maybe or the power of possibility of like, “It could be. There might be something in there. I got to check it all the time.” Whether it’s the physical mailbox or the email box, the chemical pathways have to be the same.

That’s exactly what I experienced. When I step back and think what is it that makes me want to check my phone first thing in the morning? It’s because I never know what type of emails I could get, like a great opportunity. Maybe it’s time-sensitive, somebody wants to pay me for something, somebody has some good news, or I was paid for something. The faster I respond, the higher my chances are of getting it. It is the power of maybe. That’s exactly how I feel every morning when I contemplate how soon I should turn my phone on and open up my email? It’s absolutely that. It’s important to teach your brain that the actual act of doing all of these things is not in itself rewarding. When you realize that behavior leaves you feeling bad, it becomes much easier to moderate it. You no longer need to force yourself to abstain from it, instead of abstaining as a natural byproduct of your distaste. The question is how do you achieve that? How do you teach yourself to abstain from things? It comes back to what we were saying at the beginning, mindfulness. It’s paying close attention to the experience in real-time, being present to it. That will help you teach your brain that the experience itself is not truly rewarding. You were saying, Jason, the experience of eating that ice cream and itself is not truly rewarding. It tastes good but that’s not the actual reward you wanted deep down.

What I wanted was a connection, love and emotional release. I’m using ice cream in that situation as a substitute for love, connection, and literally and figuratively wanting to be filled up by something and feeling empty. Since I’m not being filled up by love, connection and empathy, I’m filling myself up in the only way I perceive because I can call up a friend and say, “I’m feeling sad and lonely.” I can get that need filled. It’s a much more complex psychological dissection of my brain. At that moment, I don’t want to bother people and burden them. I’ll have this ice cream so something will fill the void. We’re afraid of the void.

That’s what we’re training ourselves. It’s not even necessarily the void. We’ve talked about many times as a pleasure trap. There’s a great book called The Pleasure Trap. It’s a great book. It talks a lot about food, but it can be applied to most things. As human beings, we’re looking for maximum results out of minimum input. 

Whether that’s caloric density or dopamine in this case, we want the highest yield for the least amount of effort. Whatever it is. Talk about the stock market. You can talk about anything. We’re wired for that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about TikTok and wanting to do some work around it and I was like, “I do a webinar or something.” I’ve been reflecting on it because I see the power in TikTok as a social media coach. I’ve been doing that for many years. I love coaching in marketing and social media. It’s a big passion of mine. Here I am, recommending to many people to use TikTok.

Because of the organic growth.

In Spring 2020, it’s incredibly powerful. However, I also see the way that people use it. The amount of external validation you get from that platform is immense. It is a lot like playing the lottery too because if you go on there and there’s a chance that your video can be seen by a million people overnight. It’s unlike anything else that’s unheard of in social media except for TikTok. You could go in there and spend all this time making a video and then maybe twenty people see it. You wake up the next day and you’re like, “I was expecting to have a viral video. Everybody keeps talking about how great this is going to be.” You try another video and then you become obsessed with your numbers on there. Suddenly, you’re craving that attention like, “Will people see this? Do people care about me? Am I doing a good job?”

Curiosity is intrinsically rewarding because it doesn't become habituated. Click To Tweet

If you start to peel back the layers and think about your motivation for posting on these platforms whether it’s TikTok or anything else, even people that don’t do it for their careers, people that want to post on Facebook and share their lives. If you step back and examine why are you doing that? A lot of it is we are hoping for external validation. We want somebody to approve of us, think that we’re important and perceive us as being valuable. We want to feel special. We want all these things that we’re craving. Social media has given them to us. That’s the danger with TikTok, in my opinion. TikTok has given us the opportunity to be seen, to feel important and to get it faster than ever before in social media.

This reminds me of something that I’ve worked on with my mentor, Michael. He teaches a methodology called Transformational Anthropology. There’s this thing called the four dual basic urges that it’s axiomatic because as we say, in this case, chase approval. We’re simultaneously frightened of disapproval. As we chase significance, we are terrified of being insignificant. It’s axiomatic in the sense that as we chase one thing for our psychological benefit or our brain chemicals, there’s a part of us often subconsciously that’s terrified of the opposite. What if I’m not relevant? What if no one cares? What if I lose followers? If this is some of the hardest work we have to do because becoming aware of why we’re doing things, why we’re chasing things. We also need to realize that there is a part of us subconsciously that is always going to be in the background. We’re terrified of the opposite. It is axiomatic. There’s a dual-edge blade to that sword that we need to be so mindful of. We spent much of our energy getting caught up in the cortisol, the stress and the anxiety especially if you’re doing it as a business. It’s one thing to do this in your spare time or doing it for having a personal account. The added layer of stress is when your financial solvency is tied to social media as it is with us as business owners.

Not just with Wellevatr but our personal brands, Whitney, there’s that added layer I find of stress of you’re not posting enough. Where are your likes? It’s down. It becomes this like, “Am I going to get my sponsorship on? Am I going to get more brand deals? Am I going to have collaborations with other influencers?” There’s so much tied into it and we have to practice. I’m saying this because I’m saying it to the audience and you that practice letting go and being like, “All I can do is my best and I’m not going to run myself into the ground, be stressed or anxious about this and let go of the outcome.” Turn the outcome over to life because if we don’t, we make ourselves crazy. It’s psychologically and physically unhealthy. We know people and we see some YouTubers, we know some don’t that have reached burnout points where they’re like, “I have to take a break. I have to be off this platform.” Between August and November 2019, I didn’t post a single thing on Instagram but I did stories. Honestly, I felt better.

It probably didn’t impact your life as negatively as one might think. To your point, it’s interesting being in the social media world and a lot of us think that we’re going to lose relevancy or people are going to unfollow us. All of those fears that we have, we’re going to lose money and on and on. It’s not true. It’s a big fear. It could be true to some extent but nowhere near as much as we’re afraid it is. We were talking to Paige about this in the episode that we had. She admitted this as well. There’s this fear that if I don’t post as frequently or if I don’t put up the right type of posts that I’m not going to be important. It’s going to hurt my business. I’m not following the right strategy. I have a big problem with that. I was affected after Robert Cheeke‘s episode.

We were there but going back, and for you as the audience, that’s one of my favorite episodes, if not my favorite episode of the show thus far. To have Robert come on this show and talk openly about things like social media, his anxiety, the struggles that he’s had with getting a book deal, the pressure of this, and how it’s affected him on a physical level. It gets me worked up because it breaks my heart honestly. I’ve been working on a program related to this specifically. I’m finding that one of my big passions is helping people work through all this pressure to measure up. We have on our website Wellevatr.com a great resource. Something that we put a lot of work into called You Are Enough. It’s free and you can sign up for. The reason that we made that eBook is that many people feel they’re not good enough. This ties into this whole conversation because a lot of times we don’t feel good enough. We are either doing things to try to feel good enough using social media or we’re resorting to all of these escapes. Whether it’s watching content online, TV, movies, social media videos, TikTok, eating refined sugar, drinking alcohol, consuming processed fats or whatever type of over-processed. Also, foods, smoking nicotine, using recreational drugs, consuming caffeine or watching pornography.

All of these things that we might do to try to bring more pleasure in our life is the root of that. We don’t feel good enough when we’re trying to run away from not feeling good enough. On a societal level, as I’ve been working on this program in my head, it hit me. I was in my yoga class and I was reflecting on how much we try to measure each other and how much that’s affected my life. It’s like I walk into a room and I’ll start thinking like, “Are people judging me because of the way I look? How do I look? Are they looking at my body size? Is my body size too big? Am I wearing the right clothes? Did I spend enough money on this? Are people judging me because they think I’m too old or too young, too much or too little?”

That’s what it breaks down to. Are we too much or are we too less? A lot of the time, when we feel we’re too much, we want to escape and make ourselves smaller. If we feel we’re too little, we try to boost ourselves up or fill up the void. Most of us swing a little bit more towards a feeling that we’re not good enough, which means that we feel that we’re not enough, which means we feel we’re small, we’re little, and how can we fill ourselves up? Through talking about this and thinking about it so much. A lot of the work that I want to do is to support people through that. I hadn’t even considered the dopamine stuff until we had this conversation. 

The ramifications of this are massive because with the nature of this dopamine addiction that we’re talking about and dopamine detox is a never-ending vicious cycle if you allow it to be. It reminded me of this meme that was going around on social media. It was like a cartoon style where there were almost 6 or 8 frames. There was a guy sitting on a park bench. A guy goes by on a bicycle and he goes, “I wish I were that guy.” The guy on the bicycle goes by on a motorcycle and says, “I wish I had that motorcycle.” The motorcycle goes up to a car and goes, “I wish I had that car.” The car pulls up next to a Ferrari and goes, “I wish I had that Ferrari.” The Ferrari goes to with a guy with the helicopters. It goes, “I wish I had a helicopter.” The helicopter lands next to a guy with a private jet. He’s like, “I wish I had that private jet.” It’s the same thing we’re talking about of this never-ending quest to fill ourselves with external validation to try and make ourselves feel better about our existence.

MGU 43 | Dopamine Fasting

Dopamine Fasting: A lot of the times, when we feel we’re too much, we want to escape and make ourselves smaller. If we feel we’re too little, we try to boost ourselves up or fill up the void.

 

It’s the same thing as you were saying about relationships. You were saying you felt lonely. It’s not about the material stuff. I can sometimes be, “I wish I had that relationship, that body, that clothing, or that house.” 

“That watch, those shoes, that hat, that French bulldog. She makes my life happier.”

“I wish I had those social media numbers.” 

It’s never-ending.

That’s where the comparison trap is too. It’s like, “I wish I had something else.” What we found through our own experiences and studying this that those things never fulfill you. This is the whole point here. We have to realize that we’re seeking out pleasure. What we want is to feel that self-love. To understand that we are good enough and we are innately worthy. The good news is as I finished up researching this, at least I could have gone down a rabbit hole with the dopamine stuff. In the articles that I was reading, one of the pieces of advice that was given is that if we focus on being curious, that will never be depleted. Curiosity is intrinsically rewarding because it doesn’t become habituated. There’s no way to deplete it. If you focus on being curious about yourself and this is easy for me. I’m naturally curious. I’m a why person. I questioned everything. I want to know why about everything. It’s easy for me to be curious even Jason, I don’t know if you would consider yourself as curious because you’re rebellious as a tendency.

I would say perhaps you are curious because you are interested in these topics and you’ll love your mindfulness. You like to experiment and try new things. Those things in itself if you continuously try new things. If you find yourself craving certain foods, it’s about having more variety as opposed to always going to the same thing over and over again and making it a habit. Can you take a break? Curious what would it feel not to have a certain thing? For me, I tried a week of no coffee. I love coffee and I am reading this, I thought, “Am I addicted to caffeine? Am I addicted to coffee?” Perhaps I am but when I went without coffee for a week, I didn’t feel any different. It wasn’t enough time, but a lot of people said you would notice your withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t. I did it out of curiosity as to how would I feel? I was able to step back and examine my relationship with coffee. You were saying, examining your relationship with sugar. You have a more balanced experience with sugar.

It comes down to having a healthier, more mindful relationship with any of these things. It’s not to demonize them categorically. That’s an important point. It’s not to say social media, TV, sugar or any of these things are intrinsically “bad” but being mindful, balanced and intentional about how we’re interacting with them, that’s the thing we’re getting at here. It’s being present, Whitney, how we’re using them, when and why we’re using them. Instead of this is categorically a bad thing, I’m never going to do it anymore.

Unless you’re addicted and it’s affecting you on a deep level like any addict who cannot have a substance because of how detrimental it is. It depends on where you’re at on that.

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Where I go is my own dance with orthorexia of categorically saying this type of food is bad and awful. I ought not to touch it or go near it because it’s whatever poison or this or that. It’s not to say I don’t because I’ve been plant-based for many years. I don’t want to put animal products in my body. Aside from toxic addictive things, there’s a tendency especially in the wellness field to be fat things awful, wrong and we should categorically deny its existence. This is all a complex thing because we’re talking about physiology, psychology, spirituality and the intersection of all those things. We’re all still working on it, this is not something I’ve completely figured out yet.

It certainly has been an interesting conversation. As our goal, as usual, is to encourage the readers to not to be afraid to get uncomfortable and to realize that discomfort is temporary, like anything in life. To go outside of your comfort zone, to experiment to be curious and to be mindful. Mindfulness tends to be the “answer” to a lot of things. That plays a huge role in your physical, emotional and mental well-being. To open up your mind if dopamine fasting sounds something you want to experiment with, you can check out the links. You can try a dopamine challenge. There’s a 40-day fast you can do. There are support groups or events that you could go to like Brick, for example, Tommy Sobel’s events that he does online or in person. There are lots of ways that you can experiment with reducing the amount of pleasure that you have in your life to see.

I did a version of this years ago. There’s a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, where as part of that, it was a creative detox. It was for two weeks. I didn’t listen to any music, no radio, no CDs, no TV, no books, no comics, no video games. There was no external creative input allowed in my life. It was so fascinating to see how the floodgates of creativity started to open. When I sat down to write a song, sat down to let words flow out of me and I wasn’t being constantly bombarded by external creative stimulation. It’s a sub-segment or a more modified version of what we’re talking about. When I did that for two weeks, this is back in 2005 or 2004 when I was in The Artist’s Way, it was phenomenal to do that creative detox.

If I do move forward with the program I mentioned about, I’ve been thinking of calling it Beyond Measure. 

That’s a great name. I like the Devil Entendre.

I like it too. I’m exploring that possibility to turn it into some coaching, support community. To talk about all the different ways that we let measuring up in our lives falling into the comparison trap personally and professionally. That’s something I’m passionate about. Assuming that I follow through with launching that program, you can find a link to that whenever that happens or staying up-to-date with what we’re doing here at Wellevatr. We’re also available to do private coaching. If that’s something that appeals to you, you can reach out to us. Our email is [email protected]. You can find us on social media, @Wellevatr. We’re easy to find, so never hesitate to reach out to us. We truly are here for you, that’s why we do this work. 

The other thing too that Whitney and I have been kicking around is doing more live events. In the spirit of inspiration from some of the responsible technology/digital detox events we’ve been involved with, our dear friend, Adam, is going to have a conversation about his ideas for kicking around. He said he wanted to do something with us. I’m going to poke around with that because we would to see you in person, dear audience because one of the things we love to do is meet you in person, face-to-face, heart-to-heart. That’s one of our favorite things to do is do in-person coaching and in-person work around mindfulness, spirituality, our addictions, and how to be a more whole engaged, intentional person in the world in every facet. Stay tuned for those possibilities.

No eye contact though for doing dopamine fasting. If we don’t make eye contact with you, you’ll understand why.

I love eye contact. It’s going to be so hard for me.

This is the yin and the yang. That’s us. A lot of people would call us that because Jason is extrovert and I’m the introvert. I don’t always like making eye contact because I feel uncomfortable with those awkward pauses. Sometimes I’m afraid of getting into small talk. You’ll see me trying to avoid a lot of those things which simply becomes uncomfortable for me. I’m always trying to push myself outside my comfort zone. That’s the thing, if I don’t want to make eye contact, I’ll be like, “Sorry, I’m dopamine fasting.” The reality is I am introverted.

That’s true, “I’m dopamine fasting. Sorry.”

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